MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In the span of a year, senior receiver Cortez Braham went from junior college prospect to West Virginia’s lead returning receiver.

At Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas, he became a top-five player in school history in receptions (68) and receiving yards (1,387). He earned the title of the No. 3 transfer receiver prospect in the country after three years at Hutchinson.

Now with a year of Division I football under his belt, he can finally compare his two college stops.

“It ain’t similar,” he said. “D-I is way different from JUCO, way different. You’ve got some good players, some bad players, but here, this is the best of the best every day, and I feel just going against them every day is going to make you better.”

His experience playing junior college football was not nearly as bad as others who come out of community colleges. Hutchinson invested $5.5 million into renovating its stadium in 2006, and the stadium holds up nicely in 2023. Eight years ago, the school added a football complex to the stadium campus that provided new offices, a players lounge and a new weight training center.

“Just going there, it really was a blessing, because, like not all the other JUCOs have nice facilities, good weight rooms [and] stuff like that or food to eat [and a] good cafeteria,” Braham said. “Just having all that stuff, it was really a blessing.”

Senior WR Cortez Braham

Covid gave Braham the opportunity for a third season at Hutchinson, and when he started his junior year, he was committed to play at Buffalo. Thirty-two receptions, 723 yards and 10 touchdowns later, he re-opened his commitment. Twenty days later, he was a Mountaineer.

In his first year at WVU, he corralled 14 receptions for 147 yards. He recorded four-plus receptions in two games: Towson and Kansas State.

Newcomers Devin Carter and Ja’Shaun Poke have the most collegiate experience on the team, but Braham had the most receiving yards at WVU in 2022 out of all returning players. As a result, he is listed as the starting X wide receiver on the preseason depth chart.

“I’ve got a way bigger role,” he said. “And my role is just stay consistent and make plays downfield.”

Braham enrolled in May of 2022, so this offseason was his first full one as a Mountaineer. As a result, he has time to refine his game more than he would’ve done last year during the transition.

“It’s always going to come down to the technique and who’s going to win with their technique,” he said.

Now well into his career as a Power-5 athlete, facility upgrades are likely an afterthought, but just like in JUCO, the weight of “What’s next?” may loom over the senior receiver.

If he there’s anything he showed in his 10-touchdown junior season at Hutchinson, he has experience performing in a prove-it year.